MovieWeb goes 1-on-1 with the Director as he talks about getting the movie made, writing low budget films and the new movie he's directing called The Wingman co-starring Christopher Walken
Rob McKittrick is the classic indy film Cinderella-story. After waiting years to finally helm his screenplay Waiting into a feature film, McKittrick got a great cast and a budget of $3 million dollars. However, the story doesn’t end there. McKittrick’s film went on to gross $17 million at the box office. For a movie that basically takes place in one location, this is an extraordinary achievement.
So, it appears like all the hard work is continuing to pay off as McKittrick is now writing some very high profile projects, as well as directing a film with Christopher Walken. Although he was reticent to say that things would be “easier” the next time he makes a film, he was very eager to share his enthusiasm about all that has happened to him with MovieWeb.
Waiting is a very contained film. There aren’t any explosions or anything else so why did it take so long to get made?
Rob McKittrick: Well, that’s an interesting question. The easy answer would be, “Well, it was because I was a first time director blah, blah, blah...”, but the fact of the matter is there was a while there where I wasn’t the director. Where they hired someone else on and they still couldn’t get the f**king thing made. Here’s sort of what I think... the main reason is, when it comes to greenlighting a film, or just raising up a few million dollars for a movie, a lot of stars have to sort of align correctly. What I mean by that is you have ten people in a room, ten executives, or ten people in charge of the f**cking money, right?
Rob McKittrick: And you’ve got to basically get all of them to sign off on it. They’re looking for a reason to say “no” because film investment is so scary anyway. And with a movie like Waiting, the script wasn’t like this, the movie isn’t like this... it’s never gonna be a movie or script where everybody agrees that it’s f**cking awesome.
So in any sort of situation we’d go, no matter what financier we’d go to, there would be seven people who f**ckin loved it. Who just thought it was the absolute funniest thing they ever read. And then three people would be, “I don’t get it. It’s just a bunch of guys showing their balls to each other.” So the seven people would fight incessantly, just as hard as they could against the three people, and they would just go back and forth and back and forth until finally they’d say, “You know what? We’re just gonna agree to disagree. Let’s move on to something we do agree with.”
That’s my take on it. It’s just one of those type of movies that no one was ever able to fully get on board with. No matter what financier we went to. In retrospect, it was a no brainer. We made the movie for $3 million dollars and it made $17 at the box office, and it’s doing really, really great on DVD. So it’s one of those things where god, I agree, “Why the hell did it take as long as it did?”
That’s my guess. What I found, sort of being out here, was that you’ve got to get everybody to kind of agree and that’s really, really difficult. Especially with a movie as profane as Waiting.
What was your whole attitude during that process? Did you ever say, “Screw it, I’m gonna shoot it for a couple of thousand dollars on digital video!”? What was your lowest point?
Rob McKittrick: Keep in mind the journey, the way it went. For the first two years I was in Orlando and that was the intent. To make the movie for $30 grand. That sort of thing. That was the aspiration. I didn’t f**cken know anybody out in Hollywood. I had no ties. So it wasn’t realistic. And we were struggling doing the indy filmmaker, raising the money thing. I think we raised up $20 some odd thousand dollars when all was said and done after two years. I was poor.
After two years, that’s when we finally got it into the hands, through weird degrees of separation, to someone out in Hollywood. And we got a deal from Artisan and then it was at Artisan for two years and they controlled the rights to it. There was nothing I could do at that point. Well, for two years Artisan just kind of sat on it. Artisan had a really bad year after Blair Witch, and then they kind of imploded as a company. So that was two years gone that I wasn’t getting back.
And then once the rights reverted back to me in 2002, it took another year and a half to raise up the money. Now there was a couple of times certainly when I thought to myself, “You know what, f**k this, I’m just gonna go back to the way I originally conceived it which was to make it for $30, $40, $50,000.” But... right around the time that the rights reverted back to me, we got Ryan Reynolds fresh off Van Wilder, that was a real feather in our cap.
And then we actually got a promise of about a million bucks from one financier. Of course you can say, “Why didn’t you go off and make the movie for a million dollars?” And it’s crazy. We did so many budgets and to just try and make the movie at the level we wanted to make it, making it at a million dollars, given the fact that we were going to have to stay within SAG regulations and all that, it was going to be a really difficult shoot. Even at $3 million dollars, strange as it may sound because the movie is so self-contained, we were really stretched. We only had 23 days to shoot it. Because there’s 16 major roles. And that’s a lot of people to put up in hotels and pay per diem, and fly out and just do all that sh*t.
The end result, “Yes.” I lost hope. I got apathetic. I didn’t think it about sometimes. I forgot about it. When it was at Artisan for a couple of years, when I wasn’t the director, when nothing was going on... I just kind of put it out of my mind. It was just too painful. All I’d ever hear was, “Yeah, we should be in preproduction in about 3 months.” I heard that so many f**kin times you have no idea. Eventually you say, “Quite pissing in my ear, I know it’s not rain.” So I just sort of forgot about it.
And then once the rights reverted back to me and we began the process anew, you have those ups and downs that look like, “Yes, we have a million dollars. Now getting the next two million is gonna be easy!” Yeah, right. But eventually it f**kin happened and it makes for a better story.
Movie PictureWhen you initially wrote Waiting did you structure it so that it would be easy to get made?
Rob McKittrick: Oh yeah, absolutely. If you can believe it the original script was much, much smaller than the movie that you saw, because I thought I’d be making it in Orlando for no money. I thought I was gonna go find a restaurant that had either closed down or find a little Mom and Pop restaurant that would let us shoot after-hours, and kind of go the Clerks route.
So most of the stuff that happens in the movie took place at one wait station, one spot in the kitchen and like the office! And then this table, this table and this table. And then maybe one scene where there was actually dinner rush extras. It was much, much smaller because I didn’t think we’d ever be able to have full access to a restaurant for 23 days. That was absolutely the intent. For me, it was like such a moment of inspiration when it came to writing the script in the first place was, not just, “Hey, I think this is funny and there’s a lot of truisms and there’s lots of fun characters and this is my experience. And I think other people will dig it.” But also, “I can make this very cheap.”
You mention wanting to take the “Clerks route,” how does it feel that you ultimately accomplished everything you set out to do?
Rob McKittrick: I would say and you know... reading this in print it will probably make me sound like a real cocky, f**cker, but I don’t mean it that way, but I would say it so far exceeded what my expectations were or what I set out to do. When I wrote it I was like, “I’m gonna make a movie that I can make for $50,000, $30,000, $40,000, whatever.” That was the goal. I did not think to myself, “I’m gonna write a script that’s so funny and cool, that someone will give me $3 million dollars to make it.” That’s just pie in the sky bullsh*t dreams. That sh*t just doesn’t happen.
Clerks was unquestionably the single greatest inspiration in terms of, “Hey, he wrote a little movie and then he made it himself for $30,000.” The truth of the matter is, I didn’t have the wherewithal to get the movie made at $30,000. I wasn’t able to put that kind of money together, and I wasn’t able to sort of bring all the resources together to push through and make that movie. Like I said, I was in Orlando for two years and I wasn’t able to get the damn thing made. And I think part of the reason was that I just couldn’t do it.
But I’ll take it, because if I was able to have gotten the movie made then I wouldn’t have later gotten it discovered by somebody out in Hollywood. If I hadn’t sold out and let somebody else direct the movie at Artisan, then the rights wouldn’t have reverted back to me. All of the things that happened along the way, at the time it was kind of f**cked up, but I can’t argue with the end result.
The end result was, having never directed a movie before, I got $3 million dollars and a cast that is just about as good as casts get for a movie this size.
Having never directed before did you ever doubt that you could do it? That you could work with actors and a crew?
Rob McKittrick: Yes, absolutely. There were certainly times, all along the way, when I was pitching myself as the director... after the rights reverted back to me, after Artisan didn’t make the movie, and then we went out to independent financiers... I had to go into tons of meetings and sort of do my song and dance. Let them know, sort of inspire them with confidence, that I was confident enough to direct this movie having never done it before.
Even though I could talk a really good game and I could really sort of go into detail about the movie, certainly you question yourself. When I was by myself in my room, I would say, “Do I really believe this or am I just saying this to get the job?” that sort of thing. The good thing was because the movie took so long to get made, it really gave me a lot of time to prepare. When you’re making a movie, I think one of the biggest assets you have is preparation. The more time you have to prepare and think about it, and really, really preplan everything out, the more setup for success you are. That was what I really had in my favor.
Never mind that it was a logistically simple shoot. Having it taking place in primarily one location. It was all character and dialogue and nobody knows that better than the person who wrote it. Those were things that I had in my favor, but beyond that I really, really thought and prepared every facet. While there were times there that I struggled with my own confidence, like “Hey, is this all bullsh*t? Do I really have what it takes?” I was able to sort of give myself that edge.
Even if I didn’t have it, even if I wasn’t that good... I was so overwhelmingly prepared, that at least I could give a prefabricated answer. Even if I wasn’t good enough to think on my feet, the good news is I had plenty of time to think about it in advance. I definitely did struggle occasionally. In fact, about a week before shooting, I had a little minor, mini-breakdown in my room, where I really, really started getting stressed out.
I just basically prepared the shit out of it, and just really, really thought about it. Shot listed the hell out of it. Really, really, really just thought and investigated every single aspect of it in advance, so that by the time that we actually did shoot it I could fake it well enough.
What are you currently working on now and I’m wondering, with the success you have have had, things are just gonna become easier, I would assume, to get a film made... do you wonder if, because it’s going to be so much easier, will you have the time like you did with Waiting to make the project be everything you want it to be?
Rob McKittrick: Well, first of all... slow down! (Laughs) There’s no guarantee that it’ll get any easier. Certainly one hopes, you know? The success of Waiting... I’d like to say it’s made it easier, but I don’t want to f**ckin jinx it! Getting Waiting made was such an arduous process that I don’t want to start self-inflating myself and saying, “Well, the next one’s going to be so easy because Waiting did well! Hah-Hah-Hah-Hah!” Lets not put the cart before the f**ckin horse.
I hope it doesn’t take 7 years to get the next one made, but the other side of it is I won’t have 7 years to have prepared. What I do have is a helluva lot more experience. Once you’ve actually gone through the entire process from preproduction, to production and most importantly in post production, actually having edited the film, there’s so much real world experience. Sh*t that I thought was really, really important... ended up being not important at all.
Shots that I thought were going to be so cool... set up and investigate the restaurant and open it up and really explore... ended up being completely useless, because we had to keep the movie moving forward, you know? And those are the type of things that you don’t really know, until you actually do it. Which is the benefit of having a film under my belt. I think going into what will hopefully be my next film, I feel really, really good about it because Waiting gave me a lot of experience doing a lot of things.
Because we were at such a breakneck pace, it really taught me to prioritize. Because there were 16 actors ranging from actors who had never acted before, like Andy Milonakis, all the way to veterans like Luis Guzman. I felt like I got such a good cross section of different types of acting styles, and people at different stages of their careers and how to direct those people, that’s great experience that I’ll take with me into the next one.
In that regard I’m really excited about the next step. As far as what I’m working on next, I’ve got a couple of projects... both of which are from New Line. One is project called Man Crush that I wrote. Basically, it’s a romantic comedy between two guys but it’s never gay or creepy. That’s how I pitched it. And I feel like the script really delivers on it. It’s really funny and they’re really excited about it over there.
The other project is this movie called The Wingman. Which actually, I didn’t write the original script. The script was written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the guys who wrote Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. It’s f**ckin hysterical. Christopher Walken is attached to co-star. I’m attached to direct that. It’s basically about a guy raised by his father, played by Christopher Walken, who from a very young age his father was taking him into the bars. He was taking his son in at age 9 or 10 and using him to help him get laid.
So now that he’s full grown, he’s been imbued with all these talents and skills by his father to be a Wingman. So he ends up becoming a professional Wingman to help guys pick up chicks. And then of course complications ensue and he falls in love with his mortal enemy, the Cockblocker, and it’s a lot of fun.
Certainly, Lionsgate they would like to do a Waiting sequel. We’ll have to see what happens with that though.
Well, thank you very much for the interview. You went through so much to get your film made and you certainly deserve all that you’re getting now.
Rob McKittrick: Well, I appreciate that. I don’t know if you have ever read my blog (RobMcKittrick.com), but I’ve been blogging the whole journey to getting my movie made. So for anybody, especially people who are any sort of an aspiring filmmaker, or any aspiring anything... it goes into pretty good detail about when I was in Orlando, the whole journey through Artisan and after Artisan and everything else, and right up to production now.
It’s a pretty good read, especially for anyone who’s wondering A) why the f*ck did it take 7 years to get the movie made, but also what goes into making a movie when you have no experience.
Waiting is currently available through Artisan/Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
Dont't forget to also check out: Waiting